A MidTown Oklahoma City-based group focused on advancing the civil rights of Muslims in the U.S. and Canada has presented locally a national report summarizing incidents of violence, discrimination and harassment reported during 2008. While pointing to many concerns, apparent progress in reducing such incidents was considered a hopeful sign.

Speakers included Razi Hashmi, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Oklahoma chapter, Michael Aziz Gipson, CAIR-OK board chairman and the event’s moderator, and Huda Abdul-Razzak, operations coordinator for CAIR-OK.

The press event last week also included release of CAIR-OK’s first-ever annual report, “Injustice Against One Is Injustice Against All.” The new document focused on civil rights, communication, governmental relations, outreach and operations.

Around the country, events considered anti-Muslim hate crimes increased in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, then leveled off and ultimately declined. Hashmi reflected “we hope this trend continues.” The most frequent complaints by place of occurrence, the national report disclosed, were centered around Muslim organizations (often coming in the form of provoking incidents in dealings with government agencies), at workplaces and at schools.

Types of abuse included a leading category combining abuse through hate mail, propaganda and on the Internet, the group reported. Other types included incidents in the immigration process, employment discrimination, denial of religious accommodation and due process issues, the group reported.

Patterns in such incidents within Oklahoma generally followed national trends, Hashmi said. Muslims were “disproportionately impacted” by negative treatment within the immigration process, the report concluded.

CAIR’s national recommendations, listed at the press conference and in the report, encouraged federal review and revision of existing attorney general guidelines, revisiting the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on investigation guidelines, and a new look at watch list guidelines. CAIR also encouraged a high profile visit by President Obama to a mosque or Muslim organization, workshops, and continued strengthening of outreach to Muslims.

The national CAIR group’s report examined use of “Islamapobic” rhetoric in the 2008 election and highlighted issues such as watch lists, surveillance of mosques and FBI guidelines allowing religious and ethnic profiling. Almost 80 percent of all incidents reported to CAIR occurred in nine states (California, Illinois, New York, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania) and in the District of Columbia.

Speakers at the event considered the modest decrease in reported hate crimes a hopeful sign. Reports focused on calendar year 2010 are being prepared for release at a March 20, 2010 banquet scheduled for the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, organizers said.

The briefing was held at the conference room in the Gold Dome, at NW 23rd and Classen Blvd., on Thursday, Dec. 10, in anticipation of this week’s International Human Rights Day.